Beccles: New home for ice cream firm Parravani’s

IT BEGAN when an Italian teenager fled the hardship of his homeland to launch an ice-cream business in Suffolk. And, 114 years later, the Parravani family are proving that family values and traditional techniques can be the key to long-lasting success with the launch of their new factory in Beccles.

Owners Paul and Sharon Parravani expanded their business from their home in Chedgrave, near Loddon, to an all-purpose site on George Westwood Way to meet the growing demand for their vast range of ice creams, sorbets and cakes.

The new era was ushered in on Saturday when the couple held an open day with ice cream tasting, on-site tours, and an official opening conducted by their longest customer, 102-year-old Lily Scruton.

Paul Parravani, 59, of Chedgrave, who ran a builder’s merchants in Norwich before taking the reins of the family business in 1985, said: “The idea is to keep growing and have a lot more success and opportunity.

“When we took it over we had four ice cream vans and that was basically the business.

“Since then, we have branched out into the wholesale market which is even bigger than the van side.

“When you are a family-run operation it makes all the difference. My cousin Dominic is in charge of the wholesale side – selling to restaurants and shops, my sister-in law helps in the office, and my wife deals with the accounts, which is great.”

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The Parravani story started in 1898 when 15-year-old Giuseppe Parravani, armed with little more than his brother’s name and the word “Norwich” scrawled on a piece of paper, left the poor farmlands of Italy and travelled across mainland Europe to Norfolk.

Reunited with brother Domenico, the teenager worked in his sibling’s ice cream business on Ber Street, before starting his own venture from a horse and cart in Bungay.

But it was not until he moved to Ditchingham with wife Caterina that the company became rooted in the family, with the couple having 11 children who all spent time working in the trade.

The business has changed since Giusseppe would walk a pony 17 miles to collect ice from Lowestoft and return to mix his product, before walking a further 20 miles to sell the ice creams in Southwold.

Now the company relies on a handful of stainless steel machines and a fleet of ice cream vans to sell their 28 flavours throughout Norfolk and Suffolk.

Speaking about the future of the company, Mrs Parravani, 52, said: “We are always trying to think of new flavours which we can add to our range. We were recently down in London trying ice creams, including an apple crumble ice cream with crumble pieces – it was very nice.

“But our own signature recipes are unique, so we are not looking to change that. The vanilla recipe has been handed down through the generations.

“The only change is the extra ingredients you have to add to comply with modern-day regulations.

“In the future, we would like to make patisserie ice cream cakes and it would be great to have our own range of Parravani desserts.”

The company moved to the new factory at the end of March where they installed a new purpose-built freezer store and office space.

At present, they employ eight people in the winter and 11 people during the summer. They hope to make �1million turnover in the near future.

Their longest customer, Lily Scruton, of Kirby Cane, near Beccles, said: “I have been eating Parravani ice creams ever since I was eight years old. It has been a lovely day, and the new factory is lovely.”